Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Unidentified Flying Oddball ( 1979 )

The title says it all. This 1979 Walt Disney comedy is certainly an oddball. While the Disney films of the 1970s are generally considered sub-par to the films the studio outputted in the 1950s and 1960s, most of them were still very amusing. The Unidentified Flying Oddball ( UFO ) simply fails to lift off into the realm of laugh-out-loud comedy. It could have been a fun picture, the story element is certainly clever enough, but the script falls flat. And, oddly enough, it was written by Don Tait, who penned Snowball Express, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Treasure of Matacumbe among others for the studio. 

Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" forms the basis of the film's plot with the lead character being replaced by young astronaut Tom Trimble ( Dennis Dugan ) who, during a moment of "chaos in the cosmos", accidentally pulls a lever on his spaceship causing it to careen into the past, to Camelot in the year 508. His arrival is opportune for he discovers that the wicked Sir Mordred ( Jim Dale ) and Merlin ( Ron Moody ) plot to usurp King Arthur ( Kenneth More ) from his throne. With the aid of some modern electronic gadgets and his look-a-like android Hermes, Trimble manages to foil this attempt, get himself a comely girl ( Sheila White ), and travel back to the present age. Not too bad for an accidental trip into the past. 

Tom Trimble takes a selfie with some of his Arthurian-age friends

In spite of its weak script, UFO does contain some amusing moments, such as when the android, Hermes, jousts with Sir Mordred and loses not only an arm but his head, too! And the professionalism of the cast does a great deal in redeeming the picture. Jim Dale is always a delight to watch - especially when he plays villains - and he is a particularly good Sir Mordred.


The Unidentified Flying Oddball just about broke even at the box-office, but that did not deter producer Ron Miller from investing 20 million dollars into making The Black Hole, Walt Disney's epic production made to capitalize on the space fever that Steven Spielberg's Star Wars had triggered two years earlier. It was a great gamble, for The Black Hole became one of the highest-grossing films of 1979. 

2 comments:

  1. Believe it or not, I saw this at a drive-in on its original release. My then-girlfriend has been my wife for 36 years now. The supporting British cast is very talented, but Dugan seems like (pardon me) an odd fit in this movie.

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    1. I believe it! And the film makes a great drive-in picture ( fun light-hearted films always do ). But personally I thought Dugan was good in the role, it was just the script that was a downer. Perhaps its one of those movies that improves with more viewings.

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